Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS!

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selfbuilt

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Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS!

This thread is a compilation overview of all my “thrower” lights. Detailed throw and runtime comparisons are presented, as well as a brief analysis of each light (with links to more detailed reviews where available).

UPDATE June 2, 2008: JetBeam Jet-III IBS Q5 added to the review :)

UPDATE May 13, 2008: Tiablo A9 Q5 added

For help understanding how higher flux bin Cree emitters (e.g. Q5 vs. Q2) might alter the results posted here, see my discussion on “How to Compare Different Cree Bins” later in this review.

I’ve also compared UCL anti-reflective lens to the stock MRV and V-68C lenses at the end of the review in the section on “UCL Lenses”.

The contenders:

From left to right: LumaPower MRV (2nd Gen), Tiablo A8, Dereelight DBS, DX Cree Projection, DX WF-600
Throw21.jpg


From left to right: EDGETAC RaidFire Spear, Dereelight DBS V2, SmartFire V-68C, Regal WT1 V2, Fenix T1
Throw21A.jpg


From left to right: LumaPower MRV (2nd Gen), Tiablo A8, Dereelight DBS, DX Cree Projection, DX WF-600
Throw20.jpg


From left to right: EDGETAC RaidFire Spear, Dereelight DBS V2, SmartFire V-68C, Regal WT1 V2, Fenix T1
Throw20B.jpg


Missing from these pics are the Tiablo A9 and JetBeam Jet-III IBS. The A9 is similar to the A8, but with a tailstanding tailcap. The JetBeam Jet-III is similar in height to the Fenix T1.

Beamshots:

Quick and dirty comparison at ~.4 meters from a wall, to show you the different overall spillbeam patterns. All lights are running on 18650, except for Regal WT1 (RCR on low) and Fenix T1 (primary CR123A).

Throw19.jpg

Throw19A.jpg


Note that I accidentally had the Regal set to Low mode, which is about 50% output on RCR.

Missing from these pics are the Tiablo A9 and JetBeam Jet-III IBS. The A9 beam is identical to the A8 (but brighter due to the Q5 emitter). The JetBeam Jet-III is similar in overall spillbeam width to the RaidFire Spear, but with a less defined hotspot.

Some additional 3 meter and 10 meter beamshots can be found in Post #2.

Beam observations:

In general terms, these thrower lights fall into 3 main categories:

  • Tight, bright hotspot with wide, dim spillbeam – the MRV and its clones (e.g. V-68C), the DX lights (Cree Projection and WF-600) and the Tiablo all fall into this category (although the Tiablo spillbeam is a bit narrower).
  • Tight, bright hotspot with narrow, bright spillbeam – the DBS and Spear are the best examples of this profile, with a slightly brighter spill on the Spear. The JetBeam Jet-III IBS is also similar, but with less intense hotspot.
  • Less pronounced hotspot with intermediate width spillbeam – the Regal WT1 and Fenix T1 fall into this category. Note the Regal light can be slightly de-focused by loosening the bezel.

Throw values: - Peak hotspot throw readings

Dereelight DBS original 2-Stage (2SM) - Q2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 17,000 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 3,600 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: ~19,500 Lux (peak estimate, see runtime graph)
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 3,650 Lux
Dereelight DBS 3-Stage (3SD) - Q4 (18650-only) Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 21,200 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on medium: 10,500 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 1,830 Lux
Dereelight DBS DI – R2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high (100%): 23,900 Lux (* but not for long, see runtime graph)
  • 18650 x 1 on med (50%): 13,100 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low (5%): 980 Lux
DX Cree Projection - Q2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 11,200 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 3,200 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 14,200 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 6,300 Lux
DX WF-600 (18650-only) - Q2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 16,300 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 3,600 Lux
EDGETAC RaidFire Spear – Q5 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 24,000 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 360 Lux
Fenix T1 - Q5
  • RCR x 2 on high: 7,900 Lux
  • RCR x 2 on low: 1,850 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 7,600 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 1,780 Lux
JetBeam Jet-III IBS - Q5
  • 18650 x 1 on 100%: 9,200 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on default Hi: 6,300 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on 50%: 4,800 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on default Lo: 960 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on 5%: 147 Lux
LumaPower MRV 1st Gen (Light Gray) - P4 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 9,600 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 6,200 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 11,800 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 5,900 Lux
LumaPower MRV 2nd Gen (Dark Brown) - Q2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 10,400 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 7,100 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 14,200 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 7,200 Lux
LumaPower MRV 1st Gen with Cree Q5 WG mod - Q5 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 11,800 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 8,500 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 18,200 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 8,500 Lux
Regal WT1 (1st Edition) Smooth Reflector - Q5
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 10,200 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 1,650 Lux
  • RCR x 2 on high: 11,350 Lux
  • RCR x 2 on low: 6,200 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 10,650 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 3,800 Lux
Regal WT1 (2nd Edition) Smooth Reflector - Q5
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 13,350 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 13,400 Lux
    I haven’t tested the low modes yet, but the 2-stage switch seems to be identical to the 1st Edition.
Smartfire V-68C - Q5 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high with stock lens: 15,000 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on high with MRV lens: 16,300 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on high with UCL-AR lens: 17,000 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 6,000 Lux
Tiablo A8 - Q2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 14,400 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 1,690 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 14,100 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 2,680 Lux
Tiablo A9 - Q5 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 19,200 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 3,050 Lux
  • RCR x 2 on high: 20,600 Lux
  • RCR x 2 on low: 10,700 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 20,000 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 7,200 Lux

Runtimes:

These runtimes charts are different from my other reviews - they represent throw, not overall output. Since my home-made milk carton lightbox doesn't accurately capture overall output on these intense throwers, I have adjusted all my relative output numbers to initial throw (measured as the squareroot of Lux @1m). This allows you to directly compare the relative throw of each light over time on the graphs below (although you can't directly compare these graphs with my other reviews).

Throw18650only.gif


Throw18650.gif


ThrowCR123A.gif


For clarity, I’ve separated the charts above into 18650-only lights, and multi-power lights (run on 18650 or CR123A primaries). Again, the numbers are directly comparable, so you can compare one graph to the others.

Weight (without battery):

Dereelight DBS V1: 221g
Dereelight DBS V2: 194g
DX Projection Cree/WF-600: 200g
EDGETAC RaidFire Spear: 191g
Fenix T1: 155g
JetBeam Jet-III IBS: 107g
LumaPower MRV: 195g
Regal WT1: 134g
Smartfire V-68C: 137g
Tiablo A8: 151g
Tiablo A9: 152g


Light Overviews:

DBS-8.jpg


Dereelight DBS V1 and V2 – some pills are 18650-only
  • One of the major innovations of Dereelight is the ability to easily purchase upgrade emitter pills for all their lights, including the DBS. The emitter/circuit/brass pill screws directly into the aluminum reflector, allowing easy exchange.
  • Batteries compatibility depends on the pill. Digital circuit pills are typically 1x18650 only.
  • Beam profile is similar to the RaidFire Spear, with a tight hotspot and narrow, bright spillbeam.
  • Three pills are featured here – the original two-stage Q2 (low mode controlled by body twist on V1), the 3-stage digitally regulated Q4 (3SD-Q4), and the new continuously variable with R2 emitter (DI-R2).
  • Circuit characteristics vary widely between the different pills – basically, pick whatever type you like based on the output/runtimes presented above (see also my V1/V2 review here for comparison of the digital pills).
  • Dereelight uses PWM for low modes on the digital pills, and frequency has been quite variable on different batches. Although PWM freq is undetectable on my 3SD-Q4, it is a noticeable 121 Hz on my DI-R2. Some users have reported 3SD-Q5s in the ~100 Hz range.
  • Some users have also complained about a hum or whine coming from the electronics on low modes. This is common on many digitally-controlled circuits (not just from Dereelight), and is again quite variable across the pills and batches (i.e. subtle on my 3SD-Q4, more noticeable on my DI-R2). Note there is no obvious hum on my continuously-variable Jet-III IBS (which also has undetectable PWM).
  • Build differences between the V1 and V2 DBS are described in detail in my review here. The V2 is shorter (lacks the body twist mechanism), has a redesigned tailcap for easy activation, comes with a removable clip, has black hard anodizing, and allows for tailcap lockout (anodized screw threads).
  • The overall design of the DBS V2 is excellent - very modular, very well designed. The V1 was also good, but suffered in my view from the large number of contact surfaces and screw threads (proper maintenance was very important to keep the light functioning well).
  • My DBS V2 has perfect machining and hard anodizing, although the lettering has a rougher finish than most lights. My V1 suffered from noticeable machining and anodizing defects (as detailed here).
  • Both versions came with a forward clicky. Mode switching on the digital pills is accomplished by either repeated clicks or pressing and holding, depending on the pill in question.
  • Tailstanding is not possible with either version (although a modified tailcap cover may allow it on the V1). Tailcap screw threads are anodized only on V2 (allowing for tailcap lockout).

Throw6.jpg


DX Projection Cree and WF-600 – WF-600 is 18650-only
  • Both lights share a common build, with the only major difference being in the circuit, so both are considered together here. There is also some variability in anodizing finish (i.e. glossy or matte).
  • Projection Cree takes 2xCR123A primaries, 1x18650 Li-ion rechargeable, or 2xRCR Li-ion rechargeables. WF-600 is 18650-only.
  • The Cree Projection seems to have a virtually identical multi-power circuit as the MRV, and output and runtime are comparable to my Q2-equipped MRV.
  • The WF-600 on 18650 is ~25% brighter than the Cree Projection on 18650. Consistent with this greater output, runtime is reduced.
  • The DX Cree Projection and WF-600 have identical bodies. Their weight is similar to the MRV (~200g). The lights are ~13mm longer and ~9mm wider at the bezel than the MRV.
  • Both lights use a plastic reflector (aluminum is used on the MRV and other premium lights), which are wider and longer than the MRV reflector (yet produce a very similar beam profile - see also my detailed review).
  • Despite being bulkier in dimensions than the premium lights, both are still well balanced and the Type II anodizing was smooth on both my samples.
  • Low mode comes from a 2-stage reverse clicky, which is of lesser quality than the premium MRV/Tiablo lights (sequence is Hi – Lo – off).
  • Tailstanding is possible with both lights.
  • Tailcap threads not anodized (so no lockout possible)
  • Overall build quality is not as high as the premium lights, but still acceptable for the price. I believe these are now available with Q5 emitters under the “Aurora” name.

Spear1.jpg


EDGETAC RaidFire Spear – 18650-only
  • Takes 1x18650 Li-ion rechargeable only.
  • The RaidFire Spear has one of the furthest throws of all my lights, which is very impressive for the size of its reflector (smaller than the other premium lights). Beam profile is similar to the DBS.
  • Light uses a forward clicky, and Hi and Lo modes are available by a twist of the battery tube near the head (tighten for Hi, loosen for Lo).
  • The Spear also has one of the lowest low modes of all my thrower lights (the less throwy JetBeam Jet-III IBS is just slightly dimmer). Low is accessed by a body tube twist, so no need for extra clicks.
  • The light uses PWM for its low mode, but at such a high frequency that I can’t detect it by eye or instrument.
  • Regulation is excellent.
  • Build quality is superb. There’s not a single aspect I can take issue with – machining, hard anodizing, and lettering are outstanding on my sample.
  • As you can see in my detailed review, the amount of labeling on the first batch of lights was rather excessive, but EDGETAC has reduced this on later batches.
  • The light has a more “rakish” look than most. The exposed ridges of the aluminum reflector are supposedly to help with heat dissipation, but are more likely for aesthetics. Waterproofing is maintained by a double o-ring seal at the base of the reflector assembly.
  • Some may be put off by the flared tailcap design, but I find it doesn't really interfere with function in my hands (although it does limit holster options). The flared tailcap allows for tailstanding.
  • Light uses a forward clicky.
  • Tailcap threads are anodized, so tailcap lockout is possible

T1-2.jpg


Fenix T1
  • While not designed to be a massive thrower, the T1 is the most “throwy” light in Fenix’s current arsenal (e.g. it throws ~50% further than my Q5-equipped L2D).
  • Takes 2xCR123A primaries or 2xRCR Li-ion rechargeables.
  • The textured OP reflector of the Fenix T1 produces one of the smoothest beam profiles I’ve seen for a Cree emitter, while still maintaining considerable throw (although less than the dedicated throwers reviewed here, of course).
  • Although runtimes seem lower on the Fenix T1, this is because it actually produces more light overall than most of the other lights reviewed here (all the graphs here are throw-adjusted to lux @1m).
  • On Hi, the Fenix T1 also has very flat regulation on primaries, with a nice long “moon mode”
  • On Low, the current-controlled Fenix T1 lasts considerably longer than the resistored-low mode of many of the lights reviewed here (low on the T1 is activated by a twist of body tube near the bezel).
  • Machining and hard anodizing are top notch, although the lettering is very rough and relatively poor compared to the other lights in this review.
  • Knurling is actually fairly aggressive on the T1 (a first for Fenix), and the built-in clip has a tendency to rub against it. I recommend you bend the clip outwards a little (it is fairly stiff)
  • Another first for Fenix - this light features reverse polarity protection in case you put the batteries in wrong.
  • Light feels surprisingly heavy, especially around the head/bezel. What can I say – it’s built like a tank!
  • The T1 has a very rakish-looking design, especially around the tailcap where the 3 raised points allow for tailstanding. This seems a little over-done, and gets in the way of activating the switch.
  • Light features a forward clicky switch.
  • Tailcap threads are anodized, so lockout is possible.

Jet3-1.jpg


JetBeam Jet-III IBS
  • While not designed to be a massive thrower, the Jet-III IBS is an excellent thrower for its size.
  • Jet-III IBS takes 1x18650 Li-ion rechargeable only.
  • Uses PWM for low modes, but at a high frequency with no detectable signs of flicker or audible electronics whine.
  • Textured OP reflector produces a reasonably good beam while maintaining decent throw. Spillbeam is relatively narrow, but very bright (compared to most of the dedicated throwers shown here). Closest spillbeam comparable is the RaidFire Spear.
  • Runtime on Max is comparable to other throwers that are so highly driven (output seems lower on the graphs only because all the graphs here are throw-adjusted to lux @1m).
  • Light features a continuously variable circuit that allows you to pick your output level, like the Dereelight DI pill, but more sophisticated (and with no signs of PWM flicker or electronics whine)
  • Light features 3 set-able memory stages, accessed in sequence by clicking on the tailcap. There are 5 available pre-set output states - Min (5%), 50%, Max (100%), Default Lo, and Default Hi – but you can set each of the 3 positions independently, at whatever level you like.
  • Light also includes a number of strobe modes, but these are only present if you choose to assign them to one of the three set-able states – you don’t need to see them unless you access the special features menu.
  • Capable of the lowest output of any of the lights in this review (although the RaidFire Spear is a close second).
  • Runtimes on all lower output modes are very well regulated and show good output/runtime efficiency – see my dedicated Jet-II/III review for more info.
  • Machining and hard anodizing are very good. However, as is common on JetBeam lights, lettering is not consistently bright and clear throughout.
  • Knurling is not very aggressive, but works well for grip.
  • Light comes with a removable clip and wrist-strap.
  • Lightest of the throwers reviewed here – but still feels quite well balanced in the hand.
  • Can’t tailstand, and comes with a standard reverse clicky switch (with good feel, unlike the stiffer Jet-I series lights).
  • Jet-III tailcap threads are anodized, so tailcap lockout is possible (note: for some reason, the Jet-II IBS tailcap threads were not anodized, but this appears to have been corrected in the new Jet-II PRO IBS).

MRV.jpg


LumaPower MRV
  • The MRV was the first dedicated LED thrower to be mass-produced, and it still compares well to the competition in a number of ways.
  • Takes 2xCR123A primaries, 1x18650 Li-ion rechargeable, or 2xRCR Li-ion rechargeables.
  • Newer throwers (e.g. DBS, RaidFire Spear) are capable of greater peak throw since they have more concentrated beams with less spill – the spillbeam width of the MRV is the greatest of any of the lights reviewed here.
  • Original MRVs (as reviewed here) were based on a single-stage multi-power circuit. Low modes were obtained by use of a resistor, located either near the head (accessed through a body tube twist) or in the tailcap switch (accessed by repeated click).
  • Resistored-low modes on the MRV are typically brighter than most digitally-controlled low modes, but with lower runtime efficiency. A newer MRV circuit with slightly higher max output and digitally-controlled low modes is now available, but I have not reviewed it yet.
  • Upgrading the single-stage multi-power MRV to higher flux bins (e.g Q5) results in significantly greater throw only on primaries. On 18650, flux bin upgrades result mainly in runtime improvements (see below for a discussion).
  • Build quality is top-notch on the MRV. The original production run (light gray anodizing) had some anodizing and screw thread issues, but these were all resolved on subsequent runs. My “chocolate brown” MRV with nickel-plated heatsink remains one of the best looking lights in my collection, IMO.
  • Note that the first batch of black Q2 MRVs are type II anodizing only. All other versions are hard anodized (type III).
  • All versions can tailstand very stably. Newer versions have a revised tailcap design from the one shown here.
  • Tailcap screw threads are anodized, allowing for tailcap lockout.
  • Original light came with single-stage reverse clicky. Subsequent lights often included the two-stage resistored reverse clicky. A forward clicky is also available (standard on new digital circuit models, I believe).
  • The top-notch machining, hard anodizing, lettering, heatsinking and overall build quality of the MRV remain the standard by which I compare all newcomers in this space.

WT1-1.jpg


Regal WT1
  • Although not designed to be a massive thrower, the Regal WT1 “Wrestler” is probably the most impressive thrower I have seen in this size.
  • Takes 2xCR123A primaries, 1x18650 Li-ion rechargeable, or 2xRCR Li-ion rechargeables.
  • The WT1 still shows signs of the infamous Cree beam rings even with the included OP reflector installed, so I recommend running it on the smooth reflector for max throw.
  • The WT1 can be slightly defocused into a broader hotspot by turning the head counter-clockwise relative to the body tube.
  • On Hi, the WT1 has very flat regulation on primaries, and a typical decay pattern on 18650.
  • Low mode is controlled by a resistor on the 2-stage reverse clicky tailcap switch. Light also comes with a single-stage forward clicky.
  • The second edition Regal WT1 throws about ~13% further than the original WT1 (both on the smooth reflector).
  • The first and second edition WT1 seem to have identical build quality, just a different anodizing finish (dark gray on the first edition, black or light gray on the second edition). Machining, hard anodizing, and lettering are perfect on both my specimens. In fact, this is some of the best lettering I’ve seen.
  • Light is well balanced, though not as hefty as the Fenix T1.
  • My first edition WT1 had a slightly misaligned emitter, leading to a darker semi-circular region on one side of the hotspot. I’ve seen this before on other lights, and I think it stems from not having the emitter/star sitting perfectly flat against the heatsink. My second edition WT1 is well centered.
  • Light features reverse polarity protection in case you put the batteries in wrong.
  • Tailcap threads are not anodized, so no tailcap lockout is possible (on either edition).
  • Both 2-stage reverse clicky and single-stage forward clicky included.
  • Light can’t tailstand.

V68C.jpg


SmartFire V-68C – 18650-only
  • The V-68C is an exact knock-off of the MRV form factor (i.e. same dimensions to the head), but without the heavy duty brass heatsink.
  • Takes 1x18650 Li-ion rechargeable only
  • Light also lacks the o-ring between the lens and bezel, and the aluminum reflector “wobbles” loosely inside the head unless you have it screwed down very tight. However, since the emitter contacts are not insulated from the aluminum reflector, you risk shorting out the light immediately upon first use (you must isolate the contacts before trying to use the light - see my detailed review for pics and a discussion).
  • Light uses PWM for low mode, at a fairly high frequency of 467 Hz. But my light originally also had a horrible low freq flicker, likely due to a partial shorting issue. Once I isolated the pill from the aluminum reflector, the flicker problem disappeared.
  • User interface is very straightforward – repeatedly click the switch to move through the sequence. One my sample, sequence Hi - Lo - slow strobe (2.5Hz) - medium strobe (5Hz) - off, with no SOS mode
  • There is no memory mode as such. If you wait more than 2 secs between clicks, light will revert to Hi mode (i.e. initial sequence).
  • Emitter is not well focused in the reflector. The result is a very noticeable "donut" effect in the center of the beam. This is presumably a design feature, to try and limit the risk of shorting out the light (but it’s not a very effective one!).
  • Rear clicky switch doesn't seem very reliable in my sample, and the body has a lot of superficial nicks in the anodizing (which is only type II).
  • Surprisingly for such a cheap light, it comes with anodized tailcap threads, allowing you to lock out the light.
  • At a minimum, it is critically important that you to isolate the contacts around the emitter pill before you try to use this light.
  • Adding a lens o-ring would be a good second step. The 40 MM X 1.5 MM BN70 from oringusa.com is a good fit.
  • You might also want to replace the lens with a UCL AR-coated one for improved light transmission. The 41.8mm UCL lens from flashlightlens.com is a perfect fit (it was developed for the MRV), and adds an additional ~2000 lux to the peak throw in my testing (i.e. UCL produces 17,000 lux @1m, compared to stock 15,000 lux). See discussion further down.

TiabloA8.jpg


Tiablo A8
  • The second dedicated LED thrower to hit the market.
  • Takes 2xCR123A primaries, 1x18650 Li-ion rechargeable. RCR Li-ion rechargeables not supported on A8.
  • The Tiablo A8 has a more tightly focused hotspot than the MRV, but with a brighter corona so the net effect is similar at a distance. Spillbeam width is a bit smaller than the MRV.
  • Peak throw of the Tiablo (matched for equivalent emitters) is greater than the MRV, but less than the newer DBS and RaidFire Spear lights.
  • Major innovation for the A8 is its fully regulated circuit on both 18650 and CR123A primaries. The A8 manages this trick by restricting the voltage range to 6.0V max, so RCR options are out. Fresh CR123A sometimes need to be run on low for a few minutes to drop below the 6V cut-off before they can be run on Hi.
  • The exquisite regulation of the A8 comes at the expense of runtime (which is still very good). Those of you wanting a more classic circuit should look at the Tiablo A9.
  • Low mode is obtained through a resistor in the tailcap, and is typically lower than the body-resistored MRV low mode (although seems to the MRV 2-stage clicky). A single-stage forward clicky is also available.
  • Build quality is excellent on the Tiablo A8. Machining, hard anodizing and lettering are all perfect on my sample (although I know some users have reported blemishes on later runs).
  • The Tiablo is one of the lightest thrower lights in my collection (150g compared ~200g for most of the others). Note that it also has one of the highest grades of aluminum available.
  • The light does not come with anodized threads (so no tailcap lock-out possible)
  • Original build design has a protruding clicky that prevents tailstanding. However, the tailcap from the A9 is available, which restores tailstanding ability.

TiabloA9.jpg


Tiablo A9
  • The revised version of the A8, with a wider voltage-range multi-power circuit that can handle RCR Li-ion.
  • Although the light can now take all possible battery configurations (i.e. 2xCR123A, 1x18650, 2xRCR), it is no longer tightly regulated on 18650. Runtime looks a lot like the other multi-power lights (i.e. direct drive?)
  • Head design is the same as the A8, so beam pattern is exactly the same.
  • As you can see, peak throw of the Q5-equipped A9 is as good as you get with this size reflector (i.e. not quite as high as the Spear or DBS, but pretty darn good!).
  • Excellent runtime on CR123A primaries, given the output. The A9 is currently my best performing thrower on CR123A primaries. :thumbsup:
  • Low mode is obtained through a resistor in the tailcap, and is quite variable depending on the type of battery you use (although generally higher than a lot of other lights reviewed here). A single-stage forward clicky is also available.
  • Build quality is very good on my Tiablo A9. Machining and hard anodizing on my natural "sand" finish sample are excellent, but the lettering is nowhere near as bright or sharp as my A8. :thinking:
  • The A9 comes with the extended tailcap allowing tailstanding (optional extra on the original A8), and a tactical grip ring.
  • Major improvement over the original A8 is anodized tailcap threads. This allows you lock-out the light for transport :clap:
  • The A9 shares the same body plan as the A8, so remains one of the lightest thrower lights in my collection (and with one of the highest grades of aluminum available).
  • Light now comes in a more colorful box, but the included accessories haven't changed much from the earlier editions (except for additional GITD tailcap).
  • The A9 is probably your best choice among the multi-power throwers if you plan to use predominantly CR123A primaries.

Discussion Topics:


How to Compare Different Cree Bins

I frequently get requests wondering if I will test new versions of older lights with upgraded emitter flux bins. The answer is I probably don’t need to. My experience with the MRV tells what to reasonably expect for multi-power lights:

MRVPrim.gif


In the case above where the light is reasonably well regulated and driven at a respectable level, there is a noticeable increase in output as you go up the flux bins. From P4 -> Q2 you get at most ~9% more output, from Q2 -> Q5 you get about ~15% more output.

Given the greater difference between Q5/Q2 flux bins than Q2/P4, how come you don’t see more of an output gain with the Q5 emitter? I suspect the higher Vf of the Q4/Q5 bins has something to do with it. You would likely need a circuit that is well optimized for Q4/Q5 to see much more of an increase than I’m getting here.

But what about in a light that shows direct-drive characteristics? Check out my MRV 18650 runtimes below:

MRV18650.gif


Here you can see there’s a fairly negligible increase in output going from P4 -> to Q2, but there’s a significant increase in runtime. The Q5 mod resulted in a bit of an output difference over the P4/Q2 (~10% max), with slightly more runtime.

The take-home message here? Unless your light has a circuit that is well suited for the characteristics of the Q4/Q5/R2 bin Crees, you may not get as much of an increase in output as you might expect by upgrading. Certainly in the case of direct-drive lights, most of the benefits I’ve noted have been in runtime, not output.

In practical terms, these MRV numbers should allow you to “adjust” my runtime graphs for any upgraded version of a particular light you are interested in. It is possible that some extremely well regulated lights (e.g. Tiablo A8? DBS?) could benefit a bit more by a higher flux bin than the MRV did, but I don’t imagine the difference would be huge in comparison to here.

UCL Lenses

There has been some discussion on the relative merits of upgrading stock lenses to UCL with better anti-reflective coatings. I’ve tested the 41.8mm UCL lenses from flashlightlens.com against the stock MRV, Tiablo A8, V-68C (MRV clone) on 18650 batteries.

Note that for the % differences, I'm comparing the squareroots of peak lux (i.e. “Throw”), since that is more appropriate than % difference of raw lux.. If you really want to compare % difference to raw lux, you would typically need to double my % numbers.

Throw:
UCL vs. stock V-68C on 18650: 17,000 lux vs. 15,000 lux = 2000 lux difference, or 6.5% "Throw" difference
UCL vs. stock MRV (Q5-mod) on 18650: 10,800 lux vs. 10,300 lux = 500 lux difference, or 2.4% "Throw" difference
UCL vs. stock Tiablo A8 on 18650: 14,000 lux vs. 14,900 lux = 900 lux difference, or 3.2% "Throw" difference

As you can see, the UCL lens had less of impact on my MRV or A8, but still measurable.

To probe further, I decided to swap my stock MRV lens into my V-68C to compare:
MRV stock lens vs. stock V-68C on 18650: 16,300 lux vs. 15,000 lux = 1,300 lux difference or 3.9% "Throw" difference

So, the MRV lens performs much better than the stock V-68C. This tells me that the UCL lens is a significant upgrade for a cheap lens like the stock V-68C (6.5% more "throw"), but only a small ~2.5-3% "throw" upgrade for a decent glass lens like the MRV or A8.

Conclusions:
  • Frankly, I can happily recommend any of the premium lights in this review. It just comes down to what design/features you want.
  • Among the budget lights, all are acceptable as long as you are realistic about what you are getting (i.e. typically pretty good throw but lower build quality and reliability). The Smartfire V-68C needs a little work to insure proper performance.
  • Chasing the latest, greatest Cree bin is probably not very useful. The difference in output will likely be less than the theoretical maximum flux gain (sometimes considerably so).

Some additional beamshots and discussion of the beam characteristics is presented in post #2.

:wave:
 
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selfbuilt

selfbuilt

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Additional beamshots:

3.5 meters

For these close-range 3.5 meter shots, you are looking at the landing of the stairs leading to my unfinished basement, taken from the basement.

Spear3m.jpg

DBS3m.jpg

MRV3m.jpg

A83m.jpg


As you can see, the MRV and Tiablo A8 light up a wider area. The 1/50sec exposures are useful to see the hotspot differences. The Spear has the widest corona around the hotspot of the 3 lights. The MRV has the least corona, and has a more even “spotlight” type of hotspot.

10 meters

To better see the hotspots at a medium distance, I’ve taken some shots of a “gremlin” at 10 meters, sitting on chair in my unfinished basement. ;)

Spear10m.jpg

DBS10m.jpg

MRV10m.jpg

A810m.jpg


(EDIT: Unfortunately, I realized afterwards that I had a not fully-charged 17670 in the Spear by mistake for these 10 meter shots. A fully charged 18650 would likely be a bit brighter, but the overall patterns shouldn't be any different).

The first thing you should notice is that all lights are good for lighting up objects at 10 meters. The second thing to notice is how much more “spotlight” the MRV and Tiablo A8 are this distance – the spillbeams are not bright enough to light up much of the surroundings at these exposures. The DBS and Spear, despite their narrower spillbeams, do a much better job of illuminating objects outside of the immediate hotspot (e.g. look at the pink fiberglass insulation starting halfway up my concrete foundation walls).

Longer distances ...

Since it is winter in Canada, outdoor beamshots at greater distances won’t show you much except snow reflections (plus it’s cold out!). But I can give you my subjective impressions:

At a large distance, there really is little difference between the lights. The Spear/DBS throw a bit further than my Tiablo A8/MRV. But all are good throwers. The real difference comes at closer ranges.

Personally, I find the Spear or DBS more useful for intermediate distance use, since their brighter spillbeams illuminate more than just the hotspot target in this distance range. The MRV and Tiablo A8 are probably the most useful for closer spotting, where you want to see what’s around you fairly well (i.e. where the wider spillbeam still casts enough light to be useful).

To summarize: for up-close spotting in fairly open areas (<10 meters), I personally like the MRV/Tiablo A8 for their wider spillbeams. For intermediate spotting (10-25 meters), I personally prefer the Spear/DBS for their more useful brighter spill immediately surrounding the hotspot. At greater distances (>25 meters), it basically comes down to whichever light throws the furthest – at this distance and beyond, you are just looking at the hotspot (here my Spear and DBS throw furthest)

:wave:
 
selfbuilt

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Just updated the main post with some pics from my other reviews showing what comes with each light. I will take some shots of the missing lights and add to the review later.

Thought you might appreciate the "flashlight porn". :laughing:
 
L

LED_Thrift

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

What a fantastic, COMPREHENSIVE, and thoroughly intelligent review of this class of lights. Thanks very much. It is so great to have lights all in the same class reviewed so thoroughly together. Great job selfbuilt.
 
frosty

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Thanks for a great review. A lot of time has obviously gone into this detailed summary.:thumbsup:
 
selfbuilt

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Thanks Frosty and LED_Thrift. :)

This review was certainly a long time in the making (took awhile to pull together all the background info). Hopefully people find it useful.

I've just added the rest of the light pics. :wave:
 
CandleFranky

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

This review was certainly a long time in the making (took awhile to pull together all the background info). Hopefully people find it useful.
Selfbuilt, a worldclass flashlight review, you leave me speechless (again). :thumbsup:
 
R

RGB_LED

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Selfbuit, I would have to agree with the other comments and say that this is another great review! :goodjob:

I have been researching and trying to decide on adding a thrower to my collection that runs on an 18650 and, lo and behold, I found your review. Very informative, great beamshots, lux readings... I especially found the individual overviews useful and the comparisons between the lights characteristics (ie. beam, sidespill, etc) when doing short-, medium- and long-range spotting. I even mentioned this review in another thread from another cpf'er who was looking to add a 2xCR123 light to his collection.

Props again! Looking forward to more upcoming reviews from you... :popcorn:
 
B

BMF

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Selfbuit, all of your reviews are awsome :twothumbs

I have a request: can you add 2 more lights on your review?

1. Tiablo A9. I have this and I've read it's brighter than A8 so it might be closer to DBS/Raidfire Spear on performance/brightness than the A8.
I'm thinking about getting the DBS but not sure it's much better than A9 I'm having now. Your review of this will help a lot on making a decision.

2. Taskforce 3W 2C new Cree 150 lumens from Lowes'. This is a real bargain thrower we can buy in local stores. You can make 2 reviews of this: regular C and 18650 batteries.
I compared this TF to the A9: A9 is a quite a lot brighter when using C batteries in TF, but not much more when using 18650 in TF. I'm using RCR123A for A9. To use ONE 18650 in TF I simply wrap around a screw with paper as an extension to the 18650 to fit. I also wrap paper around the 18650 too for the same reason. So there is almost no cost for the mod except a screw somewhere in the house, some piece of paper and some duct tape.
 
adamlau

adamlau

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Interesting, but the DBS needs to be running the 1S SMO. Not the 2SD, or 2SM, or DI, but the 1S.
 
Phaserburn

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Interesting, but the DBS needs to be running the 1S SMO. Not the 2SD, or 2SM, or DI, but the 1S.

Is there definitive evidence that the 1S delivers more current to the emitter than these other pills, or the 3SD?
 
selfbuilt

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Thanks for positive comments everyone!

I especially found the individual overviews useful and the comparisons between the lights characteristics (ie. beam, sidespill, etc) when doing short-, medium- and long-range spotting.
It can be hard to describe, so I hope I didn't over-sell the differences too much. There really is little to differentiative them at a distance. Up close is more a matter of personal preference. For example, if I was going to investigate something around the outside of my house, I'd probably prefer the wider MRV spill. But if I want to look down a good distance on a long clear path, I'd grab the DBS or Spear.

I have a request: can you add 2 more lights on your review? ... 1. Tiablo A9. ... 2. Taskforce 3W 2C new Cree 150 lumens from Lowes'.
I have to admit I've not really interested in getting the A9, since I typically prefer the narrower spillbeam pattern of the DBS/Spear - and I already have plenty of MRVs and similar type lights lying around. :laughing:

But frankly, I don't think there's a lot to be gained by "upgrading" if you already have an A9 (unless you really want one of the features of the other lights).

The TF is intriguing though ... unfortunately, I haven't seen it around anywhere locally (I'm in Canada). Anyone have a confirmed sighting the greater Toronto area?

Is there definitive evidence that the 1S delivers more current to the emitter than these other pills, or the 3SD?
Good question, and one I don't have a definite answer to.

From other commentaries and reviews, it does seem that the 1S (and maybe 2SD?) deliver(s) greater currrent to the emitter than the other pills. Of course, my understanding of the new 3SD and DI circuits was that they were also supposed to be driven harder too - but as you can tell from my output graphs, that's certainly not the case for the DI (which has been confirmed by others for this circuit).

Maybe if WadeF is around he could "wade" in on the issue (sorry, bad pun, but he does have more DBS pills than anyone else I know ;).
 
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WadeF

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

I'm wading in to offer some info! :) What a great collection of information and pics! Great work selfbuilt! :)

I got a R2 DI and R2 3SD (wish I got a R2 1S). My 3SD is brighter than the DI. I can't really explain why. I don't know if it is down to the emitters, the way they are screwing in and focusing, etc. I think we'd need a larger # of samples to see if the 3SD is consistently brighter than the DI.

My DBS V2 with smooth reflector, and R2 3SD is my throw king at the moment. It beats my Raidfire Spear by 3,000+ lux. The approx lux figures I got were:

Raidfire Spear 25,000-25,500 max, settles down to around 23,500-24,000 after a couple minutes.

DBS V2 R2 3DS peaks at 29,000+ lux, then settles down to around 28,300-28,500 after a couple minutes.

The DBS V2 R2 DI was around 26,000-26,500 LUX.

I think I recall one of my DBS's with one of my pills hitting 30,000lux at one point with a freshly charged battery, but that didn't last long. :) It was either the R2 WH 3SD from Dereelight, or my modded R2 WG 3SD.

If Alan at Dereelight gets his hands on more R2 pills I'll order up a 1S for DBS and 1S for CL1H. The CL1H pills can sometimes beat out the DBS pills because they get the LED in farther and focus tighter. My DBS V2 R2 3SD is a DBS pill, I think if it was a R2 3SD for CL1H I'd be closer to 30,000lux, even after a couple minutes of run time when the regulation has leveled off. We'll see.
 
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F

fnmag

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Thankyou for the in depth review. I've been looking to get one of these lights and this review has been a big help.
Cheer. :thumbsup:
 
selfbuilt

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

I'm wading in to offer some info! :)
Thanks for all the Dereelight pill info Wade - appreciate the input. If will be good to see what Alan comes up with if he gets a new batch of R2s in. BTW, for those you interested in more detailed pics of the DBS, check out WadeF's review here.

Also, for those you wishing to build your own custom pills, the DBS modular design (with standard parts) does facilitate experimentation. Check out StefanFS' DBS V2 thread for his home-made pills (including a real custom barn-burner). Of course, if you do a search you'll see Stefan has also done tons of mods on his MRVs and Tiablos.
 
Phaserburn

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Recently got my DBS V2 3SD; it seems to have a donut hole in the hotspot that is visible when out to 6 ft or greater. Anyone else see this? Is the focus off; too far into the reflector, or not far enough?
 
selfbuilt

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

Recently got my DBS V2 3SD; it seems to have a donut hole in the hotspot that is visible when out to 6 ft or greater. Anyone else see this? Is the focus off; too far into the reflector, or not far enough?
If the donut is visible up close but less noticeable at a distance, then it's usually a question of the emitter not being far enough into the reflector. Could the pill have loosen up inside? Open the head and see if you can tighten the pill into the reflector further (though be careful not to overly crank it in there - just snug/firm is good).
 
Ty_Bower

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

I received my WF-600 from DX last week. I bought it mostly because of this review - thanks for the good work.

I can't complain about the price of the WF-600, and it certainly is bright. Mine came with a silver-backed Cree, which I think means... absolutely nothing? Anyway, the side of the body tube is marked "Q2".

The construction is certainly adequate for what I needed, and I'd consider it above average given the price and size of the light. The threads are smooth and came lubed, the fit of everything is very good, and the switch action is perfectly acceptable. I think the only part which I'd consider substandard might be the reflector. It has a light haze which you can't really see unless you look at the reflector from an angle while the light is on. There's also what appears to be a fingerprint or two on the reflector. Again, you can't see anything unless the light is on. I don't think these marks affect the beam much, if any. Certainly, the reflector is easy enough to replace (if I can find a suitable replacement).

Mine does not tail stand. You can almost balance it on end, but the button sticks out just a little too much. One wobble and it will topple. I wish it would tail stand, as this much light makes an excellent room candle.

Great review, good light, and an fantastic bargain.
 
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Phaserburn

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

If the donut is visible up close but less noticeable at a distance, then it's usually a question of the emitter not being far enough into the reflector. Could the pill have loosen up inside? Open the head and see if you can tighten the pill into the reflector further (though be careful not to overly crank it in there - just snug/firm is good).

selfbuilt, the pill is snugged nicely against the reflector; I checked. It's the opposite of what you said; less noticeable very close, but more at distance.
 
selfbuilt

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Re: Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHO

selfbuilt, the pill is snugged nicely against the reflector; I checked. It's the opposite of what you said; less noticeable very close, but more at distance.
Ah, then try unscrewing the pill a little. That should help.

I think the only part which I'd consider substandard might be the reflector. It has a light haze which you can't really see unless you look at the reflector from an angle while the light is on. ... Mine does not tail stand. You can almost balance it on end, but the button sticks out just a little too much. One wobble and it will topple.
Sorry to hear about the reflector - that's one of the potential problems with plastic ones (the "haze" effect is particularly common). Same for lenses - cheap plastic ones tend to make a haze as well. But for all that, I didn't really detect any significant loss of light transmission on my DX lights.

As for the tailcap, have you tried unscrewing the retaining ring a half-turn or so? That's usually enough to remove the pressure on a switch that is just slightly causing wobbling. A pair of snap-ring pliers or fine tweezers should do the trick (or fine needle-nose pliers).

I no longer have either light to double-check, but I seem to recall tailstanding worked - but I may be mistaken (a few too many lights around here :whistle:). Let me know if you can get yours to tailstand - otherwise, I'll change the review to reflect that they don't.

Thanks!
 
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